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Criticism of Mormonism/Websites/MormonThink/Tithing
Response to MormonThink page "Tithing"
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A FairMormon Analysis of: MormonThink, a work by author: Anonymous
Response to claims made on MormonThink page "Tithing"
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- Response to claim: "We are not called to tithe, but to make an offering to sustain the church"
- Response to claim: "It appears that the LDS Church defined tithing differently in the early days of the LDS Church than they do now"
- Response to claim: "We are tithe payers...When can we see the financial information?"
- Response to claim: "Tithing as the Catholic priest said above should be a gift, but the LDS Church makes it an obligation"
- Response to claim: "The guilt placed upon Latter-day Saints can be considerable"
- Response to claim: "The church owns many businesses that generate profits...The church has very little expense in relation to its income. The tithing money it receives is all tax-free. The property is exempt from taxes"
- Response to claim: "Imagine if you had a corporation where the business model was to have your customers give you 10% of their income every year"
- Response to claim: "The Church hardly spends any of its money on humanitarian aid"
- Response to claim: "the church has far more than it needs"
- Response to claim: "why couldn't the church sell its non-ecclesiastical assets and help the poor?"
- Response to claim: "Now they expect members (as if they didn't spend enough time in church service) to clean their own buildings on their days off"
- Response to claim: "probably not really the way Jesus would have intended his church to be run"
- Response to claim: "where did the money come from to buy the businesses, stocks and other investments to generate those profits?"
- Response to claim: "Of all the things Jesus would tell Gordon Hinckley, He told the Prophet to buy a mall?"
- Response to claim: "It's disgraceful to read some of the propaganda the Church puts out about tithing"
- Response to claim: "This absolute devotion of choosing to pay a religious entity that is worth some $100 Billion over feeding her children or paying the mortgage is nothing to be admired"
- Response to claim: "LDS leaders often hint at promises that tithe payers will receive increased income from paying tithes"
- Response to claim: "Many former Mormons continue to pay their tithing, but now do so to more traditional charities"
- Response to claim: "LDS tithes are hardly used for charity, but are used primarily to build the kingdom"
- Response to claim: "Advice for those who wish to be a member but not pay a full tithing"
Response to claim: "We are not called to tithe, but to make an offering to sustain the church"
The above quote is from a Catholic priest who responded to an ex-Mormon asking about tithing. Perhaps the priest is correct. We are not called to tithe. We are asked to make offerings. When the elderly widow gave her last two mites, it was an offering, not a tithe. That would have been 10% of her last two mites. We are not called to tithe, but to make an offering to sustain the church. Plus, if I were to announce that I had given 10% of my income to a homeless shelter, that would not be acceptable to the church, but it is just what the Bible tells us we should do with our tithes. Please check out Deut. 14 for the Old Testament law on tithing. Christians are no longer under that obligation.
Apparently, this criticism is based on a Catholic view. It may well express the position of another faith but it's difficult to determine how a Catholic position could confound the Latter-day Saint view of tithing. The Catholic Church does not claim any jurisdiction over LDS doctrine and the LDS Church does not appeal to Catholicism for its interpretations of scriptures. We are not sure what the attempt to redefine "tithing" as "offerings" is intended to convey.
Response to claim: "It appears that the LDS Church defined tithing differently in the early days of the LDS Church than they do now"
It appears that the LDS Church defined tithing differently in the early days of the LDS Church than they do now. Regardless of how it may have been defined in the past, the LDS Church expects its current members to pay 10% of their income to the church, in addition to fast offerings and other donations.
No, tithing was not "defined differently," only the manner in which it was donated was different. In the early days of the Church, tithing consisted of 10% of your increase in property. For example, for farmers, this would represent 10% of the food that they produced. They would transport their tithing to the Bishop's storehouse. As society has evolved, so has the way tithing is paid.
Response to claim: "We are tithe payers...When can we see the financial information?"
We are tithe payers (the ones that Hinckley referred to as making the contributions). When can we see the financial information? The LDS Church does not allow its members to see any financial records. Most churches do publish some financial information and budgets so their members can see what their donations are used for and to assess the needs of the organization that they support with their hard-earned money. Why is the one, true church less open and forth-coming about their finances and how the money is spent than the apostate churches? Intuitively we would think that the 'false' churches would likely be more secretive about how much money they have and how it's spent and that God's one, true church would be very open about how they spend their members' donations.
Based on what we've observed at MormonThink, we find it difficult to believe the authors are tithe payers. They may have once been tithe payers when they were believers. To preserve their consistency, MormonThink editors may wish to update their wording to reflect their current status as non-believers or else they may consider changing the rest of the content of the site to reflect the humble, believing attitude most full tithe payers have when it comes to financial disclosure of Church funds, rather than displaying an arrogant attitude about dictating how "God's one, true church" ought to behave.
Response to claim: "Tithing as the Catholic priest said above should be a gift, but the LDS Church makes it an obligation"
Tithing as the Catholic priest said above should be a gift, but the LDS Church makes it an obligation. Fear is often used as a motivator to get people to pay a full tithing. How many times have you heard the term 'fire insurance' associated with tithing? He who is tithed shall not be burned at Christ's' 2nd coming. Malachi 8:10 is often quoted - "Will a man rob God, yet ye have robbed me".
Again, it's unfair and, frankly, baffling to see the Catholic definition of tithing applied to Latter-day Saints practices. Quoting scriptures including Malachi 8 to support the law of tithing is hardly problematic. In fact, it's rather fitting. We don't see it as an indictment of LDS parlance or practice.
Response to claim: "The guilt placed upon Latter-day Saints can be considerable"
The guilt placed upon Latter-day Saints can be considerable. We are not considered members in 'good standing' if we're not paying tithing. We cannot attend the temple if we don't pay our tithing. We cannot have temple-related callings or any high-profile positions if we're not full tithe-payers. And if we are full tithe-payers, we're often counseled to then start paying generous fast offerings, contributing to the missionary fund, etc.
That is because Latter-day Saints consider all they they have been blessed with to belong to the Lord anyway, and giving back ten percent of that plus offerings as a small price to pay. It seems odd that a person would be eager to attend the temple if he or she was not willing to sacrifice and consecrate 10% of his or her income to the Church. Sacrifice and consecration are among the commitments made in the temple. Attending the temple and making such commitments without actually living up to them by keeping the law of tithing can only lead to inner conflict and pain.
Response to claim: "The church owns many businesses that generate profits...The church has very little expense in relation to its income. The tithing money it receives is all tax-free. The property is exempt from taxes"
President Hinckley, in a public interview, admitted that the Church is very wealthy. However, he then went on to say that the assets owned by the Church are not income producing but are instead income draining. This is very deceptive. The church owns many businesses that generate profits. The $6 Billion or so is profit that the church takes in from contributions by its members and its businesses every year. The church has very little expense in relation to its income. The tithing money it receives is all tax-free. The property is exempt from taxes. The church owns virtually all of its properties so it doesn't have to pay rent. The utilities on those buildings and the meager funds allotted to the wards for their discretionary budget funds are just a drop in the bucket compared to its income.
The critics are mixing up profits from Church-owned tax paying businesses with Church contributions. The Church owns businesses, and these businesses pay taxes just like any other business.
Response to claim: "Imagine if you had a corporation where the business model was to have your customers give you 10% of their income every year"
Imagine if you had a corporation where the business model was to have your customers give you 10% of their income every year, and all you primarily had to provide in return were the buildings to meet in, a few social programs and some speeches made periodically by the owners. Just how phenomenally profitable would that corporation be?
The Church is not a business. Church members are not customers. Members do not donate tithing expecting to make a return on an investment. This criticism demonstrates a fundamental lack of understanding of sacrifice and consecration. In the earliest scriptures, offerings made to the Lord were simply burnt. Yet we don't infer from this that Adam was a lousy investor who was cheating his family out of their livestock and providing nothing for them in return. The same principle of sacrifice that schooled and uplifted Adam and his family applies to offerings made to the Lord in contemporary times. We pay our tithing for our spiritual benefit more than for any other gift we could hope to receive by paying it.
Response to claim: "The Church hardly spends any of its money on humanitarian aid"
The Church hardly spends any of its money on humanitarian aid. It appears that less than 1% of its revenues goes to really help the poor and needy. And those funds are usually donated as a high-profile contribution.....However, in more recent times, the Church has loosened its purse strings in some areas that it is often criticized for. The LDS Church did make some sizeable contributions to Haiti after their devastating earthquake. Most of the contributions came in the form of material goods.
Critics often complain that the Church's financial records are closed. However, the same critics often go on to draw conclusions, complete with figures like the ones given above, about where, how, and why the Church spends monies. If the Church's financial records are unavailable, how can critics' claims that "the church hardly spends any of its money on humanitarian aid" and that "it appears that less than 1% of its revenues goes to really help the poor and needy" be based on real data? The information needed to make credible claims about humanitarian aid is simply not at the critics' disposal. We suspect that this line of criticism is rooted in opportunism. Perhaps such critics are not so much champions of the poor and needy as they are detractors of the Church.
Response to claim: "the church has far more than it needs"
As demonstrated by the Tsunami, the church doesn't always spend the money where the members are told it's going. The church refuses to publish how it spends its money so no one knows for sure what all it spends it's vast wealth on except for some of the things that gets published or leaked out. But it's clear that the church has far more than it needs and some of the things it spends its money on, like The Mall or the Hunting Preserves, are perhaps things Jesus would not spend money on if he was physically running the church.
The critics, who are non-believers, are now "speaking for Jesus." They are also contradicting themselves. First they say that the Church doesn't spend money "where the members are told it is going," they in the next sentence they claim that "no one knows for sure" where the money is spent.
Response to claim: "why couldn't the church sell its non-ecclesiastical assets and help the poor?"
Christ taught that one should sell all that one has and give it to the poor. While that's not practical in today's world, why couldn't the church sell its non-ecclesiastical assets and help the poor? Does the church really have need of anything other than chapels, temples, MTCs, family history centers, and visitor centers?
Church-owned businesses are businesses. They are not part of the Church. They deal with their own financial issues, including profit and loss.
Response to claim: "Now they expect members (as if they didn't spend enough time in church service) to clean their own buildings on their days off"
The church sometimes acts like it's poor and needs money. Around the year 2000, the Church laid off the meetinghouse custodians and other church workers, some of whom had worked in the Church Office Building. The church custodian, although not a high-paying job, was a nice job for at least one person in buildings which house 2-3 wards on average. It was often a nice way for the church to help out someone that really needed a job. Now they expect members (as if they didn't spend enough time in church service) to clean their own buildings on their days off.
Cleaning church buildings is a freewill offering of time and energy. It is not used as a standard of worthiness. No one is questioned at temple recommend or other stewardship interviews about his or her participation in church cleaning schedules. Cleaning is usually carried out as a family service project meant to build unity within wards and families, and to teach young people respect and gratitude for the bricks and mortar that have been provided for their use and enjoyment. Building cleaning is done in the spirit of goodwill and that goodwill should not be belittled and reviled. Critics often complain that the Church acts like a "corporation," yet they complain, as is the case here, when the Church does not act like a "corporation."
Response to claim: "probably not really the way Jesus would have intended his church to be run"
We would recommend that the church give more money to the poor and needy (both inside and outside of the church) without expecting anything in return from the members. Also build enough meetinghouses so the members can use the buildings during reasonably desirable times. The church should raise the ward budgets so the members can actually use more of the money that they donated on a local level and bring back some of the fun activities like 'Road Shows'. The church should employ custodians again and give those jobs to people in the ward that really need them. The church should continue the good work it does with employment offices and expand them as they are able. The humanitarian funds, missionary funds, etc. should all be covered by the tithing receipts which are more than enough to completely cover them many times over. The church should keep enough funds invested to keep it sound, but billions and billions invested into businesses, when it could be helping others, is probably not really the way Jesus would have intended his church to be run, in our opinion.
The critics are "speaking for Jesus" again. There is one chapel built every 24 hours, according to the Church. We do not presume to dictate to Church leadership how they should allocate money and resources that we freely give.
Response to claim: "where did the money come from to buy the businesses, stocks and other investments to generate those profits?"
During the October 2006 General Conference, Pres. Hinckley told Latter-day Saints, "The church is undertaking a huge development project in the interest of protecting the environment of Temple Square. While the costs will be great, it will not involve the expenditure of tithing funds."
That is a very deceptive statement. Although technically the funds may come from the profits of the church-owned businesses or merely from the interest on its enormous investment capital, where did the money come from to buy the businesses, stocks and other investments to generate those profits? Everything the church owns ultimately came from money donated to the church by its members - past and present.Of greater significance: since the church can quickly raise $5 billion on merely the interest of its assets, then it doesn't really need any more tithing dollars. The church could very likely function indefinitely if no member ever contributed another dollar to the church. The interest on its $100 billion of assets can likely easily fund the yearly expenses of the church if it is managed right.
In their quest to prove Church leaders incorrect, critics go back in time to prove that all Church funds must have somehow come from tithing.
Question: Aren't tithing funds from "long ago" ultimately the source of all current Church funds?
A review of the history of such funds and Church involvement in business suggests that this is not the case
Some have wondered whether tithing funds (even from long ago) aren't the "ultimate" source of the funds used in the redevelopment. A review of the history of such funds and Church involvement in business suggests that this is not the case.
In the first place, it should be remembered that to mix tithing (tax-deductible) funds with taxable funds from other sources would cause major issues with the IRS, something which the Church would be unlikely to risk--both because to do so would be dishonest, and because the legal and public-relations consequences would be severe, even if they were inclined to do so.
The church has a number of for-profit businesses including real estate, ranching and agriculture, media, mercantile, etc. They have carefully invested for over a century in order to have a good financial cushion in order not to be severely in debt as they were in the late 1890s-early 1900s, nor to be on the verge of financial distress as they were in the late 1950s-early 1960s from over-spending building church meeting houses and other church-related ventures and expenditures.
Church and state businesses were all intermingled during the Great Basin period leading up to statehood
In the 19th-century, funds for church and state, church and business, etc., were all intermingled during a good portion of the Great Basin period leading up to statehood. This was because when the Saints arrived in Utah there was no pre-existing community. There was no infrastructure nor corporate entities providing for even the bare essentials of life. Everything had to come from the church and its members. And for the first few decades, none of the church's members were really in a position to invest large capital on projects like roads, bridges, canals, mills, and other necessities. Therefore, the church stepped in and was not only a source of spiritual aid but physical aid as well. Most of the "investment" made by members came in the form of goods and labor, not money deposited into a bank or brokerage account.
The church used what precious funds it could to build infrastructure and provide for the needs of the people. In the process, the church and its leading members created companies like Deseret Bank and Zion's Bank, Deseret Produce Company, Deseret Salt Company, Deseret Telegraph, Deseret Manufacturing Society, Deseret Iron Company, Jordan River Canal Company, Davis Canal and Irrigation Company, Utah Central Railroad, Utah Southern Railroad, Utah Northern Railroad and a host of other companies. Some companies were successful and others were complete failures.
It is simply a cop-out for critics of the Church to simply go back in time until they can equate everything that the Church has to a tithing or offering donation. This does not make President Hinckley a liar.
- How many of you reading this have ancestors that owned slaves? Does that mean that you must consider slavery acceptable?
- How many of you have ancestors who were polygamists? Does that mean that you actually must accept polygamy?
- How many of you have ancestors that paid tithing to the Church? Does that mean that you paid that money?
Members donated time to build infrastructure
Members donated time to build buildings, help build railroads, canals and other projects. Those with money "invested" knowing they would probably see only a partial return. Often, the stocks held by these investors earned pennies to the dollars invested and quite often were eventually turned over to the church as a gift. They were all doing what they could to build up the kingdom. Heber J. Grant, for example, had an insurance company that was sold for a very low price to the church and then combined with another insurance company to create Beneficial Life. Deseret Telegraph was later sold to Western Union. Even the hospitals and universities were originally church-owned and run ventures because they had to be.
So, that is where the original money came from that was then used to invest in more profitable business ventures and later used for projects like City Creek Mall. Some of these ventures became profitable and were sold as the church divested itself of businesses they felt other companies could run. The banks were sold, the hospitals were sold. The Church had originally been given an enormous amount of Union Pacific stock shares as well as rails and rolling stock to pay Brigham Young and other investors, including the Church, for labor building the road beds, etc., in Utah. Eventually the church sold its railroads, built from materials and money that came from Union Pacific, back to Union Pacific and made a good amount of money. That money was, in turn, reinvested in other ventures for later use.
The Church does not mix sacred money with Church investments
Ultimately, the church goes to great length not to mix sacred money with church investments but is constantly trying to use its investments to further the goals of the Church. City Creek Mall was made not to make money (although that has turned out to be a wonderful side-benefit thus far) but to create a place that would draw people back to downtown Salt Lake City. Church leaders were very concerned that downtown Salt Lake City was slowly dying. Stores were closing and the downtown was becoming blighted and unattractive. Church leaders did not want Temple Square and other church buildings to be surrounded by rundown blocks that few people were going to. Therefore, they felt it was worth the investment to build something beautiful and productive that would draw other businesses, restaurants, etc. and keep the blocks surrounding Temple Square vibrant. They seem to have succeeded, and also have provided an economic boon to the region.
Response to claim: "Of all the things Jesus would tell Gordon Hinckley, He told the Prophet to buy a mall?"
Of all the things Jesus would tell Gordon Hinckley, He told the Prophet to buy a mall? For ten years, the only new light and knowledge given to the world by Jesus through His Prophet are the doctrines of "no penny poker," "no multiple earrings," and "no gay rights." And now we are expected to believe that the latest revelation is the need for His church to get in the shopping mall business?
The critics are once again "speaking for Jesus." The Church have never claimed a revelation from Jesus about buying a shopping mall. These items are certainly not the "only new light and knowledge given to the world." They are a trivial strawman subset of things that the prophets have said.
Response to claim: "It's disgraceful to read some of the propaganda the Church puts out about tithing"
It's disgraceful to read some of the propaganda the Church puts out about tithing. Read the article 'Tithing Shoes' based on a true story from the Church's magazine Friend, Nov 2007:
LDS.orgThe story recounts a destitute mother with a child that did not have any shoes to wear. She had just enough money to buy some shoes for her son. Instead, she feels too guilty if she spends that money on her son instead of giving it to the church as tithing, so she gives it to the church. Of course a 'miracle' happens soon afterwards and a neighbor gives her son some shoes she happened to have.
The critics are mocking the beliefs of Church members. "Of course a 'miracle' happens..." To those of us who actually believe in God and miracles, this is an inspirational story. For those that do not believe in God and miracles, they are left only with sarcastic comments about "miracles".
Response to claim: "This absolute devotion of choosing to pay a religious entity that is worth some $100 Billion over feeding her children or paying the mortgage is nothing to be admired"
This absolute devotion of choosing to pay a religious entity that is worth some $100 Billion over feeding her children or paying the mortgage is nothing to be admired. It is tantamount to child abuse in our opinion. In fact when we read this, we wondered if this article wasn't written by an 'anti-Mormon' in an attempt to show Mormons as cult-like in their total devotion to the church. At any rate, the church chose to publish this article apparently as an example to be followed by its members. We can't help but wonder if Jesus would really want this poor mother to pay her tithing to an organization that doesn't really need the money over feeding her children.
The critics love to "speak for Jesus" when it comes to tithing. They are also saying the the Church will let children starve, which is utter nonsense. This claim must ignore a great deal of information. The Church has an extensive welfare program that takes care of members, and extensive resources to assist in disasters across the world which are not limited to members. The critic neglects to mention that the Church will not let this woman or her children go hungry. There is no mention of the Bishop's storehouse, which is specifically for this purpose. Nor do the critics mention that the bishop can and often will help pay the mortgage. Any Church finance clerk has written mortgage checks more than once. Nobody that pays tithing is subsequently abandoned by the Church to starve. That is what fast offerings are specifically used for.
Response to claim: "LDS leaders often hint at promises that tithe payers will receive increased income from paying tithes"
LDS leaders often hint at promises that tithe payers will receive increased income from paying tithes, yet Utah remains one of the poorest states in the US and ranks among the highest in personal bankruptcies. Utah has led the nation for the last few years in bankruptcy filings. Not only was Utah #1 in 2005, but it also had a record number of (bankruptcy) filings.
The Church does not teach that tithe payers will receive increased income from paying tithes. The Church teaches that members who pay their tithing will be blessed as a result. The form of that blessing can vary, but there is no guarantee that it will be in the form of increased income.
Response to claim: "Many former Mormons continue to pay their tithing, but now do so to more traditional charities"
Many former Mormons continue to pay their tithing, but now do so to more traditional charities - where they know how the money will be spent.
A statement made without data to back it up is simply an assertion. At least the critics, in this case, are not claiming to be tithe-paying members like they did earlier in the article. The word "tithing" means "ten percent." We seriously challenge any ex-Mormon to demonstrate that they are now paying 10% of their income to traditional charities. The standard ex-Mormon position is that you should stop wasting your money by paying tithing, so that you will have more money.
Response to claim: "LDS tithes are hardly used for charity, but are used primarily to build the kingdom"
LDS tithes are hardly used for charity, but are used primarily to build the kingdom. Of course the LDS Church does some good with their money, like helping out with the earthquake in Haiti, but they could really do so much more with their enormous financial empire that's been built from the generous donations of its members over the last century. The church gives so little to the poor and needy in comparison to what it takes in every year. This is causing some members to consider just giving the money to the needy themselves (via Red Cross or other established charities or even to people they know directly that are in need) and know with some surety that their money is actually going to help people and not be used to buy non-ecclesiastical investments?
After claiming that the Church doesn't share its financial information, the critics proceed to talk as if they know exactly how the Church uses their money: "Of course the LDS Church does some good with their money..." The critics now portray the Church as an "enormous financial empire." Lack of actual financial data does not deter these critics from telling us how the money is spent.
Response to claim: "Advice for those who wish to be a member but not pay a full tithing"
Advice for those who wish to be a member but not pay a full tithing Some members wish to remain in the Church but not pay a full tithing but don't want the embarrassment of having the bishop and some others in church know that they no longer pay tithing. Here's one suggestion. The Church has a program set up so members can pay electronically to the church headquarters. This was set up as some wealthy people do not want the bishop to know how much money they make. If pressed by the local bishop, the LDS headquarters will only send an acknowledgement to the local ward that some funds were paid in the year. They do not say how much money you paid to the church. You can donate $5 if you want and declare to the bishop that you were a part-time tithe payer at tithing settlement time and leave it at that. You could say you were a full tithe payer if you want to also, but we don't advocate lying.
The "Donations-in-Kind" department was not set up so that "wealthy people" can avoid telling the bishop "how much money they make." It exists so that people can donate to the church in forms other than cash. For example, one can make donations to the Church in the form of stock.
So, to summarize: MormonThink recommends misleading your Bishop during tithing settlement so that he believes that you are paying some tithing, but they do not advocate lying. Right...
The program does not work the way MormonThink describes it. The program for direct donations is called "Donations-in-Kind." It is primarily used to transfer assets that cannot be transferred at the ward level. For example, if one wishes to pay tithing using a donation of stock, the ward is not equipped to handle this. The member contacts the "Donations-in-Kind" office in Salt Lake and obtains the number of the Church's brokerage account. The member then initiates a brokerage-to-brokerage transfer, and sends the Church a letter specifying how the donation is to be allocated (percentage to tithing, fast offering, etc.). The Church then sends a tax receipt back to the member, and a copy to the bishop, specifying that a donation was made, the type of stock donated and the number of shares. If the bishop were so inclined, he could deduce the value of the donation by looking up the stock price and multiplying by the number of shares on the receipt, however, it is unlikely that any bishop would ever bother to do this.